How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Read Mammograms

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A physician explains how the use of artificial intelligence is helping with early detection of breast cancer.

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CLEVELAND – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer for women in the United States, making early detection very important.

And that might be easier to do with artificial intelligence, or sometimes referred to as AI.

It’s now being used to help doctors read mammograms.

“It’s not anything that the patient would be able to see. It’s something that we see on the detection side,” explained Laura Dean, MD, diagnostic radiology specialist for Cleveland Clinic. “So, it’s basically just an algorithm or annotations that are embedded into the patient images that we see when we’re reviewing all of the imaging for the patient.”

Dr. Dean said AI can help spot more subtle findings on breast imaging.

Research shows it can also help radiologists be more efficient and accurate.

She said another benefit is that artificial intelligence is constantly learning from known or proven cancers, and that information can then be applied when analyzing images.

Dr. Dean uses AI in her own practice and said there have been multiple occasions where it has detected something she couldn’t see.

“I think everyone, and me included, we tend to be a little bit skeptical initially when we have a task that a computer is performing. It takes a little bit of time to learn trust, to kind of learn how to apply that to our practice,” she said. “But, I think it’s really exciting to see how this has helped aid our detection of breast cancer. We, of course, want to find breast cancer as early as we possibly can.”

In addition to self-checks at home, women are encouraged to start getting annual mammograms for breast cancer when they turn 40.

Those who are at an increased risk may need to have screening sooner.

However, it’s best to talk with your physician.

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